Inflammatory headlines are reporting that the major TV networks have rejected a homosexual church commercial. And those headlines are blowing it way out of proportion. The 30-second commercial promotes the United Church of Christ and features bouncers deciding who can and cannot enter a church. They reject several people, including two men who could be a couple.
The tagline explains: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”
The networks defended themselves by saying it went against long-standing policy not to accept ads that deal with public controversy, some taking issue with the gay couple, others complaining about the implications that other religions aren’t welcoming. The ad will be airing on a number of other networks and can be seen online.
I’m not going to take issue with the United Church of Christ and their stance on allowing open homosexuals to serve as clergy. That’s another debate.
I’m also not going to take issue with the networks that reject public controversy in religious ads—this from the same networks that flashed the world at last year’s Super Bowl and have given us such winners as Extreme Makeover and Wife Swap. And lets not consider everything else their commercials promote, including alcohol, sex and materialism. That’s also another debate.
What’s so interesting here is a smart approach to promoting church (outlined in a UCC press release):
- They’re going with a nation-wide campaign and an initial $1.7 million ad buy to promote the entire denomination, not just letting individual churches go it alone (we’ve seen this idea before).
- They’re focusing on two fronts: 1) battling the long-held impression among the unchurched that Christians are judgmental and not accepting, and 2) improving the name recognition of their denomination.
- They’re also equipping local church leaders to welcome newcomers into their services, a program that goes hand in hand with the national ad.
This campaign confronts one of the biggest misconceptions about the church (a misconception that too often proves to be accurate) and puts the church in a position of open arms while the major U.S. networks are being accused of censorship and even compared to television stations in the 1950s and 1960s that refused to show people of color. Ouch.